How Theologians Hijacked Romans
Romans is an incredible book but has sadly been hijacked by thought leaders. Theologians seem to think that the point of the book is to argue over theology, rather than reach anybody. The problem is that this great book of the Bible has become the property of theologians and nerds who like Paul’s thoughts but ignore his actions.
There are two kinds of Christian leaders:
1) Thought leaders are the theologians who produce content focused on ideas. These people write theological texts, teach classes in the safe confines of the classroom, and pontificate ad nauseam about theological trivia. They also tend to blog a lot, spending their time criticizing people who are doing things, much like sports announcers who eat chili dogs a safe distance from the field while critiquing the performance of athletes in the fight. These folks deal a lot more with ideas than they do people, which explains why they become idealistic and eventually legalistic. Everything works a lot easier in theory on paper and becomes complicated once people get involved.
2) People leaders are the visionary folks who raise money, cast vision, recruit leaders, and build organizations that get things done. These people don’t have much time to sit around reading dead guys and arguing about the tense of Greek words or precise meaning of Latin phrases. They have dreams to chase and dragons to slay. Not big on reflection, they are far more focused on action.
The problem with Paul in general, and his letter to Romans in particular, is that the thought leaders have laid claim to Paul. Good luck finding a seeker mega-church going verse-by-verse through Romans. That is as likely as finding a cat who likes to swim.
Paul was BOTH theological and relational. Romans 1-11 is about theology – who God is and how we have a relationship with God. Romans 12-16 is about relationships – who Christians are and how we have relationships with each other.
The truth is Paul was BOTH a thought leader and a people leader. Unlike a war historian who studies for the facts, Paul is a soldier who studies for the fight. His theology is for the mission of preaching the gospel, planting churches, and reaching people for Christ. Paul’s letter to the Romans does reveal him as one of the greatest thought leaders in world history. But Romans also reveals Paul as one of the greatest people leaders in world history. As the Apostle to the Gentiles, he is bringing the cause of Christ to the nations. Rather than sitting in a library all day, he is walking upwards of twenty miles a day preaching and teaching a hated message for around a decade while taking beatings, starting riots, and spending time in jail. He could take a punch better than any Bible college professor I have met.
It makes no sense to love Paul’s words and ignore his deeds. To be truly Pauline is not to be able to argue about predestination until you win but get out and preach the gospel until you win someone to Christ. The truth is, both thought and people leaders are Pauline and have a lot to learn from one another. Theologians need to learn to lead people and get ministry done. Leaders need to learn more theology so that they have the gospel power they need for the mission they are on. We need each other and the point of theology is to have the gospel ready for mission to unleash its power to the nations to reach more people for Christ!
Are you more of a thought leader or people leader?
To find the free Romans study guide for individuals and small groups, hear Pastor Mark’s entire sermon series on Romans, or find a free mountain of Bible teaching visit realfaith.com or download the Real Faith app.